I’ll admit I bought this book for two reasons: it was 20p on Kindle and it had ‘Expats’ in the title so I thought it was going to be an account, albeit fictional, of people living abroad. Which it kind of was but certainly not in the way I was expecting. This book delivered so much more than I hoped for.
Initially, the story sounds familiar: Kate is a working mother, struggling to keep her home life afloat, juggling childcare and her duties as a wife and mother with her full-time job. That’s when it goes off the map because Kate’s job isn’t as an admin assistant or a teacher or a doctor or a CEO. Kate’s job is literally a state secret. Her beloved husband has no idea of Kate’s double identity but when he’s offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, Kate agrees – sensing a way out of her increasingly demanding job.
Kate envisages reinventing herself as a stay-at-home mum and, for a little while, it looks as though that will be possible although Kate is frustrated by the small tasks of washing, cleaning and care-giving she’s never experienced before. The arrival of another American couple upsets Kate’s new routine. She’s certain her secrets have caught up with her. She decides to dig around to see if she can find proof that this pair have come for her. However, Kate finds so much more than she bargained for.
Chris Pavone’s book is a really intriguing, well-thought-out story. The web that he weaves between his characters is so intricate that the mind boggles – how did he manage to keep track of it all? The narrative is so clever and so fast-paced that it will leave you gasping for breath. Pavone captures the paranoia suffered by Kate and transforms it into something very real.
The narrative manages to weave the mundane life of an expat wife with the espionage of the CIA. Kate goes from dropping the kids off at school to hanging off a window ledge at her nemesis’ office. She picks up Ikea furniture and assembles guns. The disparity between the two facets of Kate’s character may sound completely unbelievable but Pavone’s switching between past and present helps you understand this very complex character.
There’s a cast of secondary characters who are also well-drawn and intriguing and the descriptions about areas in Europe the characters visit are really vivid.
A genuinely good read.